Yesterday’s report in The Telegraph highlights that not only are the UKs top companies not maximising opportunities in this ‘digital age’ but also that they may be experiencing similar issues to years ago when no-one bought into PR – cultural change.

Understanding ‘digital’ is one thing that many people struggle with, especially as it’s evolving every day, and it’s normal if you’re a board Director to want to understand where and why you’re investing money – whether it’s a website, PR, advertising or social media.

I suppose the main thing they need to understand quickly is that if they aren’t involved and engaging online they are a) missing opportunities b) lagging behind their competitors and c) not helping the UK progress. According to The Telegraph report, “the rate of digital non executive board appointments is on the rise, with around 4 per cent of 2012 newly appointed directors in the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 having digital backgrounds. However, the UK is still lagging far behind the United States, where 15 per cent of newly appointed Fortune 100 directors in 2012 had digital backgrounds.”

Investing in new technology, new skills and new methods of reaching your audience is essential, especially as the consumer determines where, when and how you need to be engaging with them.

Rhys Grossman, head of the digital practice at Russell Reynolds Associates mentions in the article ” the board needs to be able to understand the market and stay abreast of how new technologies are affecting the business, recognise the value of digital expertise within the organisation, and support the digital strategy through the
different phases of the transformation.”

To me, this reinforces the point I made in the first paragraph – boards need to understand it before they buy into it. It’s a communicators job to research, understand, inform and develop strategies accordingly. Communicators should be working with the board and the digital team/personnel to ensure the above it heard, understood and approved. It’s integrated and aims to achieve wider business objectives.

A large part of the issues boards are facing is a cultural change – no longer is it a boys club and things are done ‘because it’s always been done that way’ – boards need to embrace the change, listen to skilled professionals, take the advice, invest and change. Communicators can reassure boards of the successes or indeed what’s not worked, by including monitoring, measurement and evaluation tactics to ensure the strategy is going in the right direction. We can also learn from mistakes – our own and others!

Sir Richard Branson has understood how PR can radically change a business/organisation and said “The head of PR is perhaps one of the most important people in a company and a  good chairman will have them by their side”. But still, PR is fighting its way into the boardroom and to be heard at board level – not in every business though. Virgin is a leading example. Is this the same issue ‘digital’ is facing?

Not everyone likes change but if it’s going to determine your place in the market or if your business succeeds or fails, I know which one I’d choose. Embrace it – change is exciting!

I’d love to know your thoughts – please feel free to comment below and to share this blog post…

By Laura Sutherland @laurafromaura